Iqaluit – A Year later

Didn’t think I’d have to write this post so soon. I guess that adage about time flying comes into play here. It’s not all fun and games though. We’ve had our fair share of stressful moments but as a whole I rate the experience thus far a strong B.

I feel really fortunate for living here and getting an opportunity every Canadian person should experience. This place does have its drawbacks like any city but when you factor in all of the components it’s one of the most intriguing, stimulating and interactive places I’ve ever lived – and this is coming from a guy who spent 20+ years in NYC. What more can I say about our Year One Anniversary other than yet another list of random observations I’ve made over the past year. Whether you live here, thinking about coming here or want to live vicariously through us, this is for you:

  • The people I’ve befriended up here are enough to keep me in this city for as long as humanly possible. I’ve never met such welcoming individuals in my life. I’ve said it time and time again, you definitely get a feel for a real community here. People really do go above and beyond the call of duty and in turn the infectious reaction is to do the same. Pay it forward means something here.
  • There’s a huge Twitter and Facebook presence up here with lots of useful group pages. Great way to stay in the know about matters up here and abroad.
  • I never expected to see so many cars. Even in the short time I’ve been there the population of cars has grown quite a bit. It’s something you don’t really think about when you look at this place from abroad and hear about our handful of paved roads but you have to remember this city is deceptively big and there are a lot of hills. Not everyone wants to shell out $6 per cab ride to get from place to place all the time. The Cavalier Crusher will be making its northern journey next sealift.
  • I miss many things from the south: family, friends, pop in a bottle, trees, real high-speed internet, paved streets, fresh fruit, fresh candy, the Bulk Barn, LCBO, our garden, normal winds (not this demonic gale force sustained crap up here)…
  • There are so many musically gifted people around here. It’s as though every other person I know can sing, play an instrument or is in a band of some sort. This city is a hotbed for undiscovered musical talent. I’ve probably seen more concerts and live performances than I did for the past decade down south. Truly amazing.
  • I’ve completed an entire year without completely wiping out and putting my well padded ass on the ground. Sure I tried to headbutt my apartment building and bloodied myself but I never hit the turf so my record is intact. Here’s to the next 365.
  • Figures I’d have to come to the arctic to find some gamers. No not video gamers. I’m talking old school pen & dice. I came out of the dungeon and people are noticing. Sure it’s super geeky but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
  • There is absolutely no time to blog – for us at least. You could see it for yourself as we became more and more integrated into community activities and volunteering, blog posts became a rare sight. There is just so much to do up here it’s ridiculous. If you’re a person who wants to keep busy you’ll keep busy. Even you’re a person who doesn’t want to be involved in everything you’ll still have a full calendar. After a year of being pretty much all over the place I’ve learned that one has to pace oneself. It’s real easy to get swept up in the euphoria of being a volunteer, making friends and helping the community but trust me when I say I catches up to you.
  • Operation Outbreak is coming along well. We’ve successfully infected several households with dominoes gameplay and it is rapidly becoming a pastime here to the point where people own their own sets now. Course we’ve been infected in return by new games as well. Beware family and friends of the south.
  • I’ve been shocked by how many people contact us for advice. Regular Joes and Janes like us who find our blog, read our stories and want to know some more information about the city, its people and how things work up here. It’s quite flattering that people would ask a guy who hasn’t even explored the whole area yet for advice but I’m willing to share what I do know. It’s like I said at the top of the post this is a place all people should get a chance to experience at least once in their lives and I’m more than happy to help bring people in. I’m contemplating adding a business resource index to this blog. I found it hard to know what’s available when we first got here so I figure it may be a great tool for others looking to invest some time here. How and when that actually gets done remains to be seen. I’m on Northern Time now folks. ;p

I could prattle on and on with more tidbits but duty calls. I have to work the desk at Atii Fitness soon so once again, life has intruded upon my coveted blogging time.

Thank you people of Iqaluit for your warmth, generosity and patience in accepting us into the community. Now that we’re official I suppose that makes us Iqalummiut as well.

We are hellbent to get a Zombie Walk going in Iqaluit and Horror Movie Nights at some point in the near future so you may soon regret welcoming us into your arms so willingly. >:)

Love, peace and hair grease folks!

So what’s there to do up there?

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked this question.

My answer for you is this…

Really?  I haven’t had time to blog since JULY and you still think you need to ask me this???

Okay, truly, here’s the goings on of the summer/autumn/early winter for me (yes, it started snowing in September and accumulating in October, so autumn came and went in name only):

  • At the conclusion of Alianait (in early July!), things slowed down a bit.
  • We had Parks Day at Sylvia Grinnell Territorial Park – beautiful day and lots of fun!
  • We battled mosquitoes…evil, gigantic, blood-sucking beasts.  In Nunavut, mosquitoes are like succubae, taking not only your blood, but your soul and spirit as well.  So that’s a tad bit dramatic, but I digress…
  • We battled 24 hours of light (22 hours of sun up).  Yeah, you’ve all heard my gripes about that, and I’m ecstatic that we’re heading back into the dark season.  The night time is the right time…the freaks come out at night…and all that.
  • We had SO MUCH lettuce that grew in our greenhouse plot.  I’m sure we could have had fresh salad every day if we wanted too.  Radishes, beans, peas and herbs also grew quite nicely.  I have a bunch of tiny carrots as well that I need to cook up soon.  I LOVE the greenhouse.
  • We saw many of you on our vacation to southern Ontario in August/September.  Miss you all already, but it was great to see you while we could.
  • We volunteered at another Alianait concert in the annual concert series – was great to be back in town and active with the arts community.
  • Mass Registration came and went and saw me and Ian representing the Iqaluit Community Greenhouse Society and Iqaluit Humane Society respectively.  It was a great success for both groups AND for us, as we signed up for more and more activities.
  • After about two weeks back in Iqaluit, I headed back down to Ontario for meetings as the Nunavut rep for the Canadian Council on Geomatics.  Truly excited to be a part of such a nationally represented council.  Made some fantastic contacts and hope to see good things for data acquisition for the territory in the near future.
  • My return to Iqaluit went right into a week of GIS training with a number of other GIS users from across the territory.  There is a surprisingly higher number of us than I thought – and I can only assume that number will grow as technology in the north permits.
  • With training/meetings/annual leave out of the way, it was time to settle into a more relaxed pace.  Ha!

So what are we involved with now, you ask?

Ian’s now an official board member for the Iqaluit Humane Society (which I’m sure he’s mentioned in his discussion of the contest the IHS is involved in – go and vote!).  He’s also going to be starting broomball shortly.

I started volunteering at Atii Fitness Centre last week, and Ian will be starting this weekend.  The centre is completely volunteer run, so all volunteers can use the gym for free as long as they volunteer ten hours a month.  It’s a great deal, and yet another way to meet people up here.  We both also are hoping to sign up for the Archery club in town…that’s right.  Archery.  Both Ian and I with bows and arrows…frightening!

I have also signed up as a volunteer with the Girl Guides of Canada.  Tomorrow night I will be leading my very first Pathfinder meeting.  Yikes!  I’m very nervous, but it’s a small group of girls, and I’ve been assured that they are really wonderful to work with.  Also, the other new Guider will be back in town in November, so I’ve only got a few weeks to be on my own as a leader.  Can’t wait though…should be a great experience!  I remember having lots of fun as a Brownie and Girl Guide.

So I hope that I’ve brought you all up to date with us…let you know that we haven’t fallen off the face of the planet (at least me since Ian’s posted a couple times) and hopefully we’ll be posting more frequently in the near future.  Hopefully.

But don’t hold me to that.  Iqaluit’s a busy place if you want it to be.  And I wouldn’t have it any other way!

The IHS & The Aviva Community Fund

Yes this is shameless promotion but who cares when it’s a good cause involved. The Iqaluit Humane Society has a chance to win a nice chunk of money to not only help re-open its doors but get some seed funds to construct a new facility. All you have to do is vote. Just look at the poster(s) and follow the instructions.

Be a part of history.

Thanks and Happy Voting!

Oh the Legion…

This past Friday I had the luxury of being invited for “a night out at the Legion”. For those who live under a rock or just don’t know what “the Legion” is it refers to The Royal Canadian Legion. Without going into too much detail it’s basically a members-only social club (at least up here it’s like that). The Legion in Iqaluit holds a pugnacious reputation for being the spot to go to party on Friday & Saturday night. It’s one of the few places in town where there’s late night drinking and dancing so it tends to attract people from all walks of life looking to have a good time.

Finally after 7+ months living here Suzanne and I were invited to break our Legion cherries. A friend of ours requested our presence at her birthday night of dancing and we were stoked to finally be heading to the city’s most happening night spot. I heard all kinds of stories both positive and negative about the place. Nothing could have really prepared me for the lessons and revelations I came to in just one night:

  • The Quiet Room really isn’t quiet. Yes. The building is divided into two sections. A larger area with many seats, a dance floor and DJ booth and a smaller closed off area with a large tv, bar and about a dozen tables. The thing is, the Quiet Room plays live music so when you’re sitting right under the speakers it’s not so quiet. However compared to the booty bumping bass on the other side I suppose quiet is a relative term.
  • Dance music still sucks. Last time I went club hopping was with Jesus and some of the Apostles. Okay so it wasn’t that long ago but I recall it was at Webster Hall in NYC and I was about 16 or 17 at the time. If any of you know how old I actually am you’ll know my first statement isn’t too far from the truth. Anyway, it amuses me how dance music really hasn’t changed. Back then you had a generic megabass repetitive beat with some crappy vocals on top of it to try and dress it up as a real song. Nowadays its repetative bassy beats with crappy synthed out voices on top of it. The Whippersnappers tell me it’s cool but we all know it’s crap. No one listens to dance music for the vocals or lyrics. They just want to dance provocatively to heart pumping rhythms. Nevertheless, with enough alcohol even I found myself on the dance floor a couple of time. Thank goodness there’s no flash photography allowed in there.
  • Eating a candy off a chick’s bum isn’t a bad thing. I tweeted that when I got in. That really happened. In full view of my beloved wife. In fact she paid for it and told me to do it. Before anyone gets the wrong idea there wasn’t anything dubious or erotic involved. There was a bachelorette partying going on that night. The pretty bride-to-be was clad in a very young t-shirt adorned with candies, front and back. She and her bridesmaids floated from table to table inviting willing participants to pluck candies off with their mouths for a small donation to the wedding fund. By the time she reached us Suzanne already had the money out. Being the gracious wife she is and knowing how much of a pig-dog I am she set me loose on the candies. The one I went for though was located in the no man’s land near the small of the back and upper …uhm.. gluteus area. I didn’t realize how affixed the candy was and didn’t manage to pull it off on my first attempt. I didn’t want to leave the job undone so I was forced to go in again and complete the task. I gained no amusement from this endeavor. Seriously. *snicker*
  • There’s no escape. It never ceases to amaze me how no matter where you go, you always run into the same people. It makes me giggle when you see someone throughout the course of the day and not have it planned that way. It adds a whole new wrinkle to the group dynamic. You can arrive at a place with a certain set of people, hang out with another set, merge sets later on and end up closing the night out with people you didn’t even arrive with. Got to love Iqaluit.

A Doggie Dot Com Launched

For months I’ve been using this blog to shamelessly promote and broadcast the message of the Iqaluit Humane Society. I admit that without hesitation. It follows suit with our unofficial motto down there…

“By any means necessary”.

With the unofficial official launch of our website (www.iqaluithumanesociety.com) behind us now I figured it was a good time to explain its evolution and how all of this came to be.

Back when we first arrived in Iqaluit, November of 2010, we were well aware of the robust volunteering atmosphere up here and had were determined to dive head first into community activities. It’s no secret that we’re suckers for animals. Two of the three cats we have are products of a stray we cared for. Heck, even before we departed for the north we executed a rescue operation for yet another stray that frequented our backyard culminating in him being successfully delivered to the Kitchener Humane Society before winter rolled in. It served as a bit of foreshadowing of things to come. We spoke with Bonnie over at the Iqaluit Humane Society when we arrived in town and she told us about the plight of the shelter. Since we were still technically homeless at the time we didn’t feel quite like committing to actual shelter work so we volunteered our services in other aspects. Suzanne offered to help with their paperwork while I proposed setting up “a little website”. I had free space on my host server and an extra domain name to donate so we had what we needed to pull it off. One of the first things I noticed was that the IHS had a very limited web identity with a barely used Facebook group page and a partially completed website that was in construction limbo. This organization needed a serious presence on the Interwebs if they wanted to take advantage of how connected the city of Iqaluit was. Since a good portion of the residents are transient having a website was imperative to maintaining ties with those that come and go.

After an initial meeting with a few of the Directors I started my brainstorming. I received permission from the very cool Curtis Rowland to manipulate his stylistic logo design for the shelter to suit the website needs and I soon started laying out the groundwork. It was after I was placed on the IHS mailing list that I discovered another very serious roadblock – communication. Despite their noble intentions I found my inbox clogged with mail from people I’ve never even met talking about matters I had no clue about. Dozens upon dozens of emails daily on top of the dozens I receive normally from my line of freelancing work. If my mailbox was getting this hammered I could only imagine how it was across the board with a mailing list of over 50 people. The once simple website idea started to get more complicated.

A couple of months passed and I found the website in design purgatory. Not because of a lack of vision but from an incredibly difficult time gathering the information and content needed for the site. You have to understand I’ve said it a bunch of times already but everyone who volunteers at the shelter has ham & egger jobs they must tend to in addition to other various other personal commitments before they can even begin to think about the shelter. Even me. I worked on the website in my spare time between projects. It’s no one’s fault that production go bogged down. It’s just the nature of the beast. It ended up being a game of poking around in the dark until I struck something. To compound the matter I started picking up shifts at the shelter at this point as well. The volunteer pool was dwindling and I filled in where needed. The fact that we were strained for volunteers and had an inefficient communication system prompted me to keep plodding through with the site design.

Our first breakthrough came in the form of our new Facebook page. Iqaluit loves their Facebook so what better way to take advantage of that massive audience than to present a society page for the community to view while the website was under construction. This proved to be a pivotal move because not long after debuting there we started to gather a small fan base. Pictures, status updates and useful information were made available immediately and the public appreciated the effort. Meanwhile back at the website I managed to create a secure login section for the volunteers to use. Current volunteers would be able to register and have access to vital information in a centralized area. Message boards, shift calendars, training material, personal notes, volunteer information… it was all there at their disposal. Unfortunately the display end of the site – aka the part that the every day viewer gets to see – was still bare as a baby’s bum. I couldn’t debut a site with no content so I conceded by making what I had done available to just the volunteers.

The new Volunteer Area was met with mixed reactions. Newer volunteers ate it up. They marveled about the ease of use and the potential it had with regards to improving overall communciation. Veteran volunteers found the transition hard to deal with though. They were so set in their ways of doing things that such a new way of operating ended up being a total shock to the system. This posed yet another major problem for me because only a handful of people were using the site and the rest handled matters the old way which lead us to continued communication breakdowns. Nevertheless I remained persistent with campaigning to get everyone onboard.

I ended up branching the IHS out onto Twitter soon thereafter linking both that and the Facebook account so that any status messages were immediately tweeted. Everyone and their mother are on Twitter so I figured why not. Spreading the word was our biggest goal so it made tactical sense. In a bizarre twist of fate I ended up getting assigned scheduling duties in late June so I seized that opportunity to play dictator and “creatively guide” our volunteers to use the Volunteer Area. No more mass-mailing the schedule calendar around. It would be downloaded at a central location and updated often. Soon after more and more people started to see the light and conformed to the simplicity of the website. Redundant emailing soon dropped to a bare minimum and it allowed us to coordinate on some of the empty areas of the website.

After obtaining what I deemed a “baseline amount of information” I decided to push forward with the site launch. Our Facebook page was growing with Likes and we were getting more and more followers on Twitter. As much as I hate putting unfinished work online I made an exception in this case. It’s a work in progress. Hopefully as we start to infect the minds of more people we’ll start to rebuild our volunteer base and therefore give us an opportunity to square away the unfinished portions of the site. Right now we’re starting to receive more feedback than I’ve seen since starting this whole project. Volunteers are starting to trickle in and our name is popping up more and more across Iqaluit. Hopefully this dream of being more than just “the shelter” is coming to fruition because we’re establishing the Iqaluit Humane Society as more visible public entity.

I wear many hats within the society. I’m a liaison between the directors and volunteers, handle all the web endeavors and communication, set up the shift scheduling and am currently throwing down 20+ shifts this month alone doing grunt work at the shelter. I’ve had some good friends warn me about burning myself out and I can feel the nagging bite of irritability nipping at me from behind. I am burnt out. There is no heading towards it. I’m already there, dude. I don’t do it to be praised for building a website or to get a pat on the back for slaving through shifts. I do it because it needed and needs to be done. That’s why any and all of us do it. Actions speak louder than words and a plan is nothing more than words unless you act on it. I come from the school of thought where I’d rather do something and run the risk of it being an epic fail rather than do nothing and guarantee failure.

Hopefully this little bit of blood, sweat and tears lays down enough ground work for the IHS to build on. If not, oh well. At least something was attempted. Either way I harbor no regrets. I dig the fact that Nunatsiaq News Online made note our newly forged website on their front page.

It’s all about the animals. Love live the IHS.

Canada Parks Day

So the streak of volunteering continues. We spent this past Saturday helping out at the Canada Parks Day celebration at Sylvia Grinnell Park. The gods were happy that day my friends. They graced us with beautiful weather for the entire 5 hour outdoor event. Clear skies, bright sun and lots of wind (which translated to a reprieve from the mosquito assault… for a little while at least).

I took to the grilling duties promptly at 11am just as the first wanderers started appearing. Burgers and hotdogs were on the menu and with the weather behaving itself we were expecting a crowd. While Suzanne manned the table, taking and dishing out orders, I cooked like there was no tomorrow. I’m no stranger to the grill but I never had to contend with a line up before. It can be quite an overwhelming experience even with pair barbeques and cooks. I admit, a couple burgers may have been still been mooing when they left the fire, but for the most part people were satisfied and came back for seconds, thirds and even fourths. Once we caught on that “cooked till it’s crispy” and “with cheese” were the popular cooking preferences of most, we were belting them out like a conveyor belt. I got into such a rhythm that I didn’t even realize 2 and a half hours passed. I had a feeling I’d been there for a while when I finally stepped away and noticed my forearm fur was singed and my glasses were coated with a nice layer of beef juice. Finally when there was a lull in customers we got relieved and had a chance to enjoy some of the festival from the other side of the barbecue.

The park changed a lot since we were last there. It was much greener and the river was no longer ice choked. The angry rapids and twin waterfalls could be seen all the way from the pavilion making it an undeniably enticing destination. We made our way down the hill to the river bed and traversed the rocky shoreline. It’s a wicked workout but my goodness, don’t be dumb like us and do it in running shoes. Nevertheless we weren’t going to let a little thing like a potential catastrophic wipeout prevent us from exploring. When we finally reached the sandy beach – yes we have sandy beaches just like the south up here – it kind of put things back into perspective about how new we actually are to this area. I personally have been lost in a whirlwind of volunteering the past couple of months. So much so that I started to lose sight of the fact that there is still so much to see, hear, taste, feel and experience up here. Standing on an outcropping of rocks taking pictures of almost intoxicatingly furious waterfall was a real treat that’s been burnt into my memories.

It was especially unforgettable when I mistook a rock formation for a polar bear. I was about a hundred yards from Suzanne and out of her line of sight so thankfully I only embarrassed myself with my sheer and utter panic. Don’t mock me! I didn’t have my prescription shades on and I SWEAR the damn thing looked like a bear that was looking in my general direction. Despite all that Suzanne tried to inform me about dealing with them, I wasn’t about to stick around and try any of them out. In my defense though I did show some balls and snapped a picture before I bounced. The way I saw it was if I’m gonna get eaten I may as well take a snap of it. ;p

We even decided to further our nooblicious experience by walking around barefoot in the water. Yup. Mark off yet another thing I thought I’d never do in my life time. Yeah okay so we didn’t go far out and it was an inlet of shallow water that was slightly warmed by the sun. So what? I walked in arctic water! That’s all it’s going to say on my life’s resume. ;p

It turned out to be yet another great day with a lot of familiar faces. There was children’s face painting, a scavenger hunt, a bannock competition, traditional tea tasting and food galore. Best of all though there was just good old-fashioned hanging out. Nothing beats just drinking in a magnificent day with your buddies.

We’ve uploaded a ton of pictures to the Photo Diary. I’ve been terribly lax in updating but with good reason. We’ve just been so busy running around that I just didn’t have any time to do it. Regardless there’s over 250 new pics there now dating all the way back to the infamous night of Fondue Debauchery. Some you’ll recognize from some of our posts but many haven’t been revealed until now.

Enjoy!

…and then they came.


Mos·qui·to [muh-skee-toh]: any of numerous dipteran flies of the family Culicidae that have a rather narrow abdomen, usually a long slender rigid proboscis, and narrow wings with a fringe of scales on the margin and usually on each side of the wing veins, that have in the male broad feathery antennae and mouthparts not fitted for piercing and in the female slender antennae and a set of needlelike organs in the proboscis with which they puncture the skin of animals to suck the blood.

I·qal·u·it Mos·qui·to [ee-kal-oo-we muh-skee-toh]: any of the numerous demonspawn creatures that terrorize the city of Iqaluit every summer, that are equipped with lancets that impale humans and animals and suck them dry leaving only shrivelled husks behind.

Since this is a shared blog I’ll try to curb my tongue for the greater good of the viewing audience. However when talking about the subject of mosquitoes here in Iqaluit, I may lose myself so I apologize ahead of time.

I remember hearing about them since day one. Everything from how big they were to how they swarm. I heard a particularly funny reference about them that went  In the summer, if you hear a helicopter… it’s not always a helicopter. I didn’t think much of it at the time. Besides, I’d been camping more times than I can count. How bloody different could a mosquito be?

I should have had a clue about things to come based on the size of the pterodactyl sized ravens up here. Not to beat a drum to death by saying what’s been said a million times over by now but for those who don’t know be afraid. Be very afraid.

I swear I never in my life seen anything like these things. I’m used to normal skeeters. You know the annoying gnat-sized bugs that you can swat away. First of all these creepy bastards are about the size of houseflies. Batting them away only angers them. Don’t bother using chemicals or sprays either. It only makes gets high and they get really violent then. They’re notorious pack hunters as well. If you stand still for more than 2.4 seconds you’ll be engulfed in the blink of an eye.

Speaking of eyes, they fight dirty as well. They’ll impale (not pierce, puncture or sting) any bit of exposed flesh you have if you give them the opportunity to. I got bit on my eyebrow, my cheek, my ears and my knuckles. Who the f**k bites a knuckle? Honestly? The back of my neck is feels like Braille and probably reads like a Tourettes rant.

They lulled me into a false sense of security. With the longest day behind us I thought that the tales were exaggerated. Summer was in full bloom. The days were sunny and warm and the nights cool and crisp. But then it rained.

And then it rained again.

And again.

That’s when they started to appear. They sent their scouts first. They wanted to know what Grade A New York dark meat tasted like. I mocked them as I crushed them in my hands. I made a fatal error though. I didn’t kill all of them. Some returned to their base of operations and gave their leadership a sample of what they imbibed. Weeks later they descended upon the city of Iqaluit like a swarm of locust. The sad part of it all is this is just the beginning according to many I’ve spoken with. If that truly is the case I’m not spending any extended time frolicking outside till I get the hell out of here in August. Bad enough I’m tormented by a never setting sun but now I have to deal with mutant bugs that are hankering for a hunk of Ian. Greeeeat.

I’m kind of regretting signing up to volunteer for Parks Day this coming Saturday. I’ll be working the grill but I think I’m going to be the meal…